Purposeful Patience & Deliberate Delay

Summer 2024


The author Jim Collins writes that,  “People have such a need to resolve ambiguity and uncertainty that they often act quicker than they need to because it’s dealing with their own need to make the uncertainty go away….but the uncertainty never goes away”

Ever since I read the book “Decision Making” by Ed Smith, former Head Selector of the England Cricket Team, I’ve become a little obsessed with the concept of intentional delays especially in decision-making.

When I think about this concept, I always think of the fly half delaying the pass just long enough to get the defender to commit – it changes the game in a fraction of a second and so usually it changes it through omission and not by action!

This is a concept that’s so interesting to me because it’s completely counterintuitive to how I do everything – and I know I’m not alone. I naturally have very little patience, and instead would happily work 24/7 to complete everything I can as soon as I can. Therefore, how potentially transformative might it be to introduce purposeful patience and deliberate delay into my decision-making.



In a world that often demands immediate results and quick decisions, the wisdom shared by Ed Smith offers a compelling counter-narrative. Smith advocates for the value of patience and the strategic benefit of waiting to make decisions, a philosophy that, while cultivated on the cricket field, holds profound implications for various aspects of our lives – especially mine.


Maximising Information through Patience

Smith’s advice – “make decisions later” – is predicated on the idea that by delaying decisions, we can gather more information, thereby enhancing the quality and effectiveness of the outcomes. In cricket, this might mean observing a player’s performance under different conditions or against various teams before deciding on their role. Translated into a business or personal context, it suggests that holding off on making major decisions until you have the fullest possible picture, allows for a more informed and nuanced approach – the key tests here are that you should only delay the decision if information is likely to change and if you’re sure you will not miss an opportunity by delaying.


The Power of Delay in Unveiling Opportunities

By waiting, we also open ourselves to a broader range of opportunities and potential collaborations that might not be apparent at first glance. In the rapidly changing contexts of both cricket and life, new possibilities emerge over time, and flexibility can lead to unexpectedly positive outcomes. This approach acknowledges the dynamic nature of our environments and the benefit of adapting in real-time to evolving situations.


Calculated Risks and Conscious Choices

Smith acknowledges that this strategy comes with its own set of risks — including missed chances and the anxiety of uncertainty. However, he asserts that the benefits of making more informed decisions outweigh these drawbacks. The critical consideration here is discernment: recognising when additional information will no longer change the outcome and understanding when the cost of waiting – be it stress, lost resources, or missed opportunities – surpasses the potential gains.


Insights from the Cricket Legends

The essence of Smith’s perspective is captured in his admiration for great cricketers (and many other sportsmen) who appear to possess an almost supernatural ability to choose the right course of action under pressure. He demystifies this by suggesting that their success is less about innate talent and more about their willingness to wait, observe, and react with precision. This principle, he suggests, can be applied far beyond cricket, in every decision we face and I’m trying to integrate it into my approach to work and life. My favourite tool here is my (questionably) healthy relationship with organisation and scheduling. In this way, I can logically place a decision at an optimum time where the maximum information can be revealed before an opportunity is lost.


Implementing Patience Strategically

Adopting this approach requires a paradigm shift from valuing speed to prioritising deliberation and it’s not overly comfortable but it is fascinating. It involves training ourselves to be increasingly comfortable with uncertainty and resisting both the pressure of getting immediate answers and the pleasure that comes with completing an action or deleting an email. It also means developing a keen sense of judgment to know when to wait and when to act, ensuring that our decisions are as informed and effective as possible. As I’ve played with the idea and concept, purposeful patience and deliberate delay are tools I’m increasingly using – but not regularly, I still enjoy getting on the front foot!


Close of Play

Ed Smith’s reflections offer a valuable lesson in the power of patience and the strategic advantage of timing in decision-making. Whether in sports, business, or personal choices, taking the time to gather more information, consider a wider range of options, and carefully weigh the potential outcomes can lead to more thoughtful, successful, and satisfying decisions.

Now to actually practise purposeful patience and deliberate delays in decision-making.


Rich Stockdale

Founder & Managing Director